The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is both a class offered during Winter Study (currently cross-listed under ECON 22 and POEC 22) and a community service program which provides low-income taxpayers assistance filing their income taxes. Once trained through the Winter Study Course (described below) or through the IRS online training program (see the IRS Tax Volunteers website), certified student volunteers serve clients at the Berkshire Community Action Council in North Adams on Wednesdays from 4-7pm and Saturdays from 10am-2pm through most of the tax season. Community volunteers are also welcome to participate. For more information, contact Paula Consolini at [email protected].
Founded in 2005, the Purple Valley VITA program focuses on helping wage earners qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit while the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program serves low to middle income taxpayers aged 50 or older. The AARP program can be particularly helpful to low income senior citizens eligible for property tax relief through the Massachusetts “Circuit Breaker” tax credit. Information on this and local programs can be found here: PROPERTY TAX RELIEF for SENIORS.2.14
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Winter Study Course
This course examines tax policy towards low-income families in the United States, and has the following three objectives: 1) For students to understand the shift of redistributive policy in the United States from income support through the transfer system (Aid to Families with Dependent Children/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) towards support of working individuals through the tax system (primarily the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC); 2) For students to understand the challenges that low-income individuals have “making ends meet” and to understand the role that the EITC has played in increasing the standard of living of the working poor; and 3) To enable students to understand the tax code well enough to prepare simple income tax returns, including those for filers claiming the EITC. Students are trained and certified through the IRS online “Link and Learn” training system to prepare income tax returns for low-income individuals and families. At the end of the term, students use their newly acquired expertise to help individuals and families in Berkshire County prepare and file their returns.
Economics Professor Lucie Schmidt first taught this course in January 2005. Since then, Professors Tara Watson, Lara Shore-Sheppard, Sara Lalumia, Bill Gentry, and Jon Bakija have rotated in the teaching of the class.